Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beautiful Weather, Trouble at Andy's Wok, Fireworks

Wednesday, June 30, 2010. I've enjoyed being outside this week: the weather is just about ideal, plants are still lush and green from the rains, and there's been enough wind to discourage mosquitoes. For the most part.

Clear skies, near-ideal temperatures: it's been a good week. June 29, 2010.

I wasn't happy about one of this week's front-page items from the Sauk Centre Herald. Andy's Wok, downtown, is in trouble with the county health inspector. Again. The place was closed for three weeks last year. The Chinese-Mexican restaurant is closed again. Maybe for good. There's a hearing scheduled for July 22, the paper said: but the outlook for Andy's Wok doesn't look good.

According to the paper, Stearns County Environmental Health Division Director Hank Schreifels said that Andy's Wok's owner, Faxu Lin, "has not demonstrated any ability to comply with the regulations - We've given him many opportunities."

I suppose a person could present what's happening as a case of cultural differences. Americans are picky about food services keeping foods at safe temperatures - and the staff washing their hands.

I've written about Andy's Wok before (June 22 and May 16, April 4, 2008), and the other Chinese restaurant in that location (June 24, 2007) I hope that the owner of Andy's Wok is able to get his ducks in a row where it comes to operating the restaurant - and convince the county Stearns County Environmental Services Department that he's done so. That restaurant has been a colorful part of downtown.

"Caution" tape across the fairgrounds entrances. June 29, 2010.

Meanwhile, a crew is getting the Stearns County Fairgrounds ready for the end of July and the start of the fair.

I don't think that's a shadow (being cast by nothing): It looks like they've repaved that stretch of service road. There's a section with new asphalt at the main entrance, too. June 29, 2010.

The Fourth of July is coming: Sunday. I checked the forecast. This wonderful weather is supposed to last through Friday. Then we're in for a 30% chance of rain, lightning and thunder.

Fireworks for sale at Coborn's. June 30, 2010.

Fireworks displays are up in the stores. On the whole, I'm rather glad that the Minnesota legislature is no longer protecting us from dangerous things like sparklers.

Even if it rains, I'm pretty sure folks will find a way to set off fireworks. Within the limits of Minnesota state law, of course.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mess on Birch Cleaned Up, Fireworks Tent, Weather

Sunday, June 27, 2010. Good news. Debris from the house on South Birch that burned down last September isn't there any more. I haven't been by the lot recently, but the dirt looks fresh. I'm very glad that the mess cleaned up. But not as much as the neighbors, I'd guess.

That's more like it! Debris from last year's fire is finally gone June 27, 2010.

"Before," in early April:

Maybe it'd help, if I looked at this as a sort of modern art sculpture? Unhappily, even as 'found art,' it's an eyesore. April 8, 2010.

It's a week until the Fourth of July. This weekend, someone set up a tent on the parking lot shared by Westport Liquor, Gerards, and other businesses.

A 'fireworks tent' in south Sauk Centre: a sort of tradition. June 27, 2010.

The storms that hit Minnesota this week missed us, for the most part. We got rain, wind, and a bit of lightning: but that was about it. I see on FOX9 News that over 5,000 homes didn't have power today, down in the Metro area. (That's the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area: "The Metro" takes much less time to say.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, Rain, Prairie Planting, and Missing Goose Decoys

Wednesday, June 23, 2010. I drove around the new(ish) residential areas on the east side of town, across the river, yesterday. There's one lot (at least) that's what would have been called a weed patch when I was growing up. Or, maybe, a patch of wildflowers.

That was then, this is now:

"Native Prairie Planting:" Sounds better than "weed patch, or even "wildflowers." June 22, 2010.

That "Native Prairie Planting" doesn't, to my untrained eye, look all that different from any other patch of open land around here does, after folks stop tilling it for a while. Which isn't too surprising, I suppose. It is a native prairie planting, after all.

Why it's between two residential lots on the east side, I've no idea.

East of town, part way to McCormic Lake. June 22, 2010.

I drove out of town, east, as far as McCormic Lake, hoping to get a picture or two. And see what the land looked like.

It's green: the result of the rain we've been having. Some of which came before I got back.

The vacant lots here are just vacant lots: no special signs to protect the weeds. Or wildflowers. This is maybe one street over from the prairie lot. June 22, 2010.

I see in this week's Sauk Centre Herald that Rick Kleinschmidt's two months into retirement from the Sauk Centre Fire Department: The paper did a feature on him.

On a more serious note, The D-Trading Post and Historic Town, east of Sauk Centre on the Lake Wobegon Trail, is missing three goose decoys. They were taken from a display there. From the Sauk Herald article, I gather that they were last seen on the afternoon of June 10, in the company of two teenagers.

Dick Young, who owns the D-Trading Post and H.T., would like the decoys back. The Herald article said that anybody with information should call the Sauk Centre Police Department ( (320) 351-7022), or the sheriff’s department ((320) 259-3700). I hope those goose decoys get recovered.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Flowers Downtown, Campground on the Lake, and Father's Day

Sunday, June 20, 2010. Father's Day. Here's another photo of those flower pots - if that's the right word - hanging on lampposts downtown. I like those spots of color on the street

The inset picture was taken Monday of this week. Sure brightened up for the weekend, didn't it? June 18, 2010.

I'm giving myself a sort of vacation today, partly because it's Father's Day: so this entry will be a bit on the short side.

Sinclair Lewis Campground: a few spots are still open, but not all that many. June 18, 2010.

I plan to be back Wednesday, with a little more about the Sinclair Lewis Campground on Sauk Lake. They've got a new set of lots opened up this year.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Minnesota Tornadoes Yesterday, Thursday, June 17

We didn't have much except wind, overcast, and some rain here in Sauk Centre. Other places didn't fare so well. From the news:

"Deadly Twisters in Minn."

CBS, YouTube (June 18, 2010)

"Two were killed and dozens were injured when a string of tornadoes struck Minnesota. Heather Brown reports."

The death toll is three - maybe more.

"Twisters kill three in Minnesota"
CNN (June 18, 2010)

"Deadly tornadoes touched down Thursday in Minnesota, killing at least three people, officials said.

"Minnesota suffered widespread damage and power outages, said Doug Neville, a spokesman for the state's public safety department. He said Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on his way to survey the damage in affected areas.

"The twisters hit the town of Wadena hard, ripping off roofs and damaging schools and stores. Neville said 14 people had been taken to hospitals, 13 of them in critical condition...."

"3 killed, dozens injured in Minn. tornadoes"
The Associated Press (June 18, 2010)

"Police and National Guard soldiers blocked off neighborhoods Friday as city officials organized a cleanup from tornadoes that ripped through the city the night before, part of a turbulent system that fueled twisters across the state and killed at least three people.

"Dozens more were injured in Thursday's heavy weather. The National Weather Service collected 36 reports of tornado sightings, with northwestern and southern Minnesota hit hardest. If the sightings are all confirmed, it would exceed the previous state record of 27 in one day, in 1992.

"In northwestern Minnesota, a woman was killed in Almora and a gas station owner was killed in Mentor. In southern Minnesota, one person was killed at a farm west of Albert Lea...."

Names, places and details don't necessarily fit, from one news account to another: which is fairly normal in situations like this. What is fairly certain is that parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin had really bad weather, several people died, and more were hurt.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Let's see: Monday was Flag Day, and a dim, overcast day. Back in April, I mentioned that a group was going to hang flowers downtown: City funds would pay for the flowers, they'd do the work. I'd figured that my household's share of the cost came to around $1.65. Seeing the results, I think it was well worth it. Actually, you can't see the flowers too well in that photo. I'll try for something better, Sunday.

Friedrichs Oil and Tire, a flag and a flower basket. I took that photo in late morning: and yes, that car's lights are on. June 14, 2010.

I read in this week's Sauk Herald that there's been a transition at the Sinclair station. Bill Friedrichs and Shawn Olson bought the business from their fathers last year. A few facts and dates from that article: Bill Friedrichs is the third generation of Friedrichs to own the place. Bill's father Jim became the owner in 1979, "taking over for his father, Peanuts, and Bob Friedrichs." Olson became a business partner in 1981. Friedrichs has been a Sinclair station for about 40 years now.

Two generations in the same family is something for a business: Three? That's impressive.

The lot on South Main ("The Original Main Street") that's more-or-less across from the Hillcrest Motel is for sale: as a commercial lot. Even from a strictly utilitarian point of view, I can see why whoever's doing the selling had the placed seeded with grass. My guess is that it's less expensive than paving: makes the lot look more attractive, keeps dust from causing a nuisance, and is easier for the buyer to build on.

We'll see what goes in there.

So that's it: the land's being sold as a commercial lot.. June 14, 2010.

Monday and Tuesday were not sunny days. They were overcast, dark, and distinctly not the sort of thing that photographs well.

Until late Tuesday. Earlier in the day, it'd been raining so hard that the raindrops seemed to be bouncing on the pavement. I'm pretty sure it wasn't hail: just really, really hard rain.

Then, the sky cleared. Not overhead, but off to the west, where the sun was getting ready to set.

Sunshine and rain. June 15, 2010.

I see there's a good chance of rain tomorrow, too. Maybe after that, I'll have a chance at a 'sunshine' shot of those flowers, downtown.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer, a German Family Picnic With Bier Garden, And Today's Health Food

Sunday, June 13, 2010. I ended the last entry with "There's more, but It'll wait until Sunday..." Remember, I didn't say there was much more. I spent most of Friday and Sunday, and all of Saturday, enjoying a visit with our second-oldest daughter and her husband. My wife and I, all three daughters and our son had a good time. That's the good news. The sort-of-bad news is that I don't have much to say about what's happened in Sauk Centre since Wednesday.

However, not having much to say has never kept me from discussing what little I have, so here goes.

"Bring the whole family!" "German Bier (Beer) Garden" - folks who never lived elsewhere may not realize how wonderful it is here. June 6, 2010.

Sauk Centre's German (and Irish) heritage may be part of the explanation for part of that poster. I don't mean "German Picnic" for the title: it's the "Bring the whole family!" and, a few lines down, "German Bier (Beer) Garden." That poster was in Our Lady of the Angels church. Which reminds me: I love this place!

It's not the beer: it's the relaxed acceptance of the beer. Not all communities are quite so willing to let folks enjoy - in moderation - something our ancestors had since before history was written about us. Okay. I'll get off my soapbox now.

The rumors are true: It's summer.

Summer is definitely here. The public dock's in place, near the campground by Sinclair Lewis Park. June 9, 2010.

Back on the soapbox, sort of. I wrote a little about Energy Connection on Wednesday. You remember: the place where the Shake of the week was German Chocolate Cake.

Shake of the week: German Chocolate Cake?! This is not your grandmother's health food store. June 9, 2010.

Right there, you known this isn't one of those colorful health food stores, with stuff you can't pronounce - or recognize. I picked up a sort of brochure there this week: something they get with their Herbalife stuff. There's a little of what I see as 'expert' advice from folks who don't realize that not everybody is that imaginary 'average man/woman/child/human.' Most of it's common-sense advice, though, like 'stop smoking' and 'keep physically active.'

Let's see: The flags are still up downtown; Things like how the Sauk Centre Track Squads did in Moorhead, you can read in the Sauk Centre Herald. That's all I've got for now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Beach Ball, Signs, and a Sign of Summer

Wednesday, June 9, 2010. Driving along south Ash Street yesterday, I saw a beach ball rolling with the breeze. Where there are balls, there may be kids, so I slowed down and took a look around. No kids in sight, also no other vehicles, so I drew alongside the ball and picked it up.

One brightly-colored ball. June 8, 2010.

I still couldn't see any kids, but I figured that someone might come looking for it. I pulled into a driveway, tucked the ball under a bush where it probably wouldn't be picked up by the breeze again - but where anyone within maybe a half-block could see it. An hour or so later, it was gone. I trust whoever owned the ball recovered it.

There was a brisker wind today. Which explains why Energy Connection had their sidewalk sign inside.

Shake of the week: German Chocolate Cake?! This is not your grandmother's health food store. June 9, 2010.

I've been in 'health food stores' for one reason or another for several decades now. About 40 years ago, the emphasis in the ones I was familiar with were foods with exotic names, like "tiger's milk." And, of course, tofu. Lots and lots of tofu. The philosophy seemed to be 'the weirder, the better.

Maybe places like that are still around.

Energy Connection, though? Their shake of the week is - German Chocolate Cake. This isn't the sixties any more. Can't say that I'm sorry about that. That new eatery apparently has Herbalife products. Well, at least some of the brand names still sound mildly exotic.

This is what was left of Energy Connection's sidewalk display, after the wind hit it. June 9, 2010.

I've walked from the Sinclair Lewis Park parking lot - the one near the band shell - to the fountain many times, and never noticed a small plaque on the ground, near one of the trees.

"In memory of Sandra Barrett, City Deputy Clerk, 1999." June 9, 2010.

Now, that's just plain nice.

Up at the fountain, the 'umbrella statue' is in place, and the water's running. I think this can be taken as a sign that summer is really here.

The fountain's running in Sinclair Lewis Park. The fountain's working fine: it's the wind that's whipping the water toward downtown. June 9, 2010.

There's more, but It'll wait until Sunday. It's late, and I've got a few busy days ahead of me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Everybody Knows' What Small Towns are Like

One of the reasons I created my first website, back in 1997, was to offer a sort of reality check for 'small town America.' The ones I've lived in have been pretty good places to live, if you can get used to the lack of air pollution.

It helps, if you can get yourself accepted by the community. Which I've had little trouble doing: I'm inclined to thank my Irish forebears for that. Which is another topic.

'A Long Time Ago, in a Land Far, Far Away'

I think that part of the problem is simple ignorance. America is a largely urban country now, and has been for several generations. Most folks here have heard of small towns - but I don't know that many have actually spent time in one. The result, I think, is that "small town America" has become more of a mythical place, like Camelot or Mordor, than something that you can drive to. I've discussed that before.

Another public relations issue that small towns, in America at least, have is that - again in my opinion - the folks most Americans read or hear, discussing small towns are convinced that it's the stifling oppression of those small town bigots who made their lives miserable. That could be true, but I've got my doubts. Some of those angsty artists and unappreciated 'geniuses' probably wouldn't get as much admiration as they want anywhere. Which is definitely another topic.

Derrick Bird's Victims are to Blame?

Looks like small town America isn't the only place that 'suffocates' people. From today's news:
"Small town may have caused killer to 'snap' "
CNN (June 3, 2010)

"Detectives in England are retracing the bloody trail left by mass killer Derrick Bird to determine what drove the 'well-liked' taxi driver to slaughter 12 of his neighbors in a picturesque corner of Cumbria.

"For three-and-a-half hours on Wednesday, the heavily armed 52-year-old terrorized residents by driving his car through small villages and towns, firing apparently indiscriminately through the window.

" 'The focus of the 100-strong squad of detectives investigating the incident is firmly on finding out why someone would want to take so many lives in such a short space of time,' Cumbria Police said in a statement Thursday...."

"...The area he covered may be popular with tourists, but it is home to a small population of people clustered in tight-knit communities in a relatively remote part of England.

"One psychotherapist said the closeness of the community may have suffocated Bird to such an extent that he saw no other way out.

" 'It can feel very pressurized and too intense and when that happens people do tend to react out of character. They just snap,' London-based psychotherapist Lucy Beresford told CNN.

" 'If there is a problem, for example, that might have resulted in them losing face or to be embarrassed in some way, shamed in some way, it can be almost intolerable to deal with when you imagine yourself surrounded by people who know you very well.'..."
One psychiatrist a statistically significant sample doth not make - but I've heard that sort of thing before. Small towns 'suffocating' people - and blaming the victims of crimes - were very fashionable notions in my part of the world four or five decades back. Still are, in some circles.

Oh, Those 'Suffocating' Small Towns?

I didn't buy the idea that tight-knit communities of folks who know and care about each other were 'suffocating,' and saying that a rape victim was to blame because she 'asked for it' didn't make sense. To me, anyway.

There's an element of truth in what the psychiatrist said, though. Small towns aren't like big cities. Folks living here aren't anonymous faces in the crowd. And that bit about "losing face" is tied to the real world.

For example, if I'd gone to one of the bars downtown yesterday, tied one on, and thrown a brick through a shop window - I might be the talk of the town, if it was a slow week. Same goes for the guy who propositions his boss's wife at the office party, or makes a bank deposit while wearing a grass skirt. (This is central Minnesota - in winter, that'd be chilly.)

I've gotten the impression that it's a whole lot easier to fade away and start over elsewhere in a large city. On the other hand, in a small town a person has a whole lot of opportunities for correcting embarrassing situations - although in the hypothetical case of the boss's wife, that could take a lot of time to smooth over.

Back to that CNN article:
"...While Cumbria police have not commented on a potential motive, the British press has focused on two theories, both based on early targets of Bird's murderous rampage.

"Press reports suggest the divorced father-of-two was involved in a dispute with his brother over the contents of a family will. Bird's twin brother David was reported to be one of the first people shot, along with Kevin Commons, 60, who was a senior partner in the law firm KJ Commons and Co.

"CNN's Phil Black, reporting from Whitehaven, said Bird was also said to be frustrated by the competitive nature of the taxi business in the town, and by the techniques used by his colleagues to secure customers. A number of shots were fired at the Whitehaven taxi rank where Bird worked. Consultant psychologist, Simon Meyerson, told CNN that Bird's grievances could have been rooted in childhood.

" 'A twin has an added dimension. If one was a favored twin at birth then problems can lie down the line for the one who wasn't so favored, (the one) that wasn't so bright, that wasn't so good-looking. He may have fallen into that category from day one,' Meyerson said...."
The only person who could - if he wanted to - tell us why the shooter killed all those people is the shooter himself. Since he was his last victim: that's not gonna happen. Which won't stop folks from speculating, of course.

Reality Check: Small Towns aren't Eden; or Brigadoon, Either

There's a little more about people, and small towns, in the article. Told from the perspective of an urbanite, but with a smidgen of truth:
"...Despite the verbal clues dropped by Bird before his killing spree, psychotherapist Lucy Beresford said neighbors, colleagues and friends could not have known what he was about to do.

" 'You probably have to be trained and monitoring someone on a 24-hour basis to be able to categorically say, "yes I could spot this," ' she said.

" 'By definition we're actually talking about secretive behavior which takes place first of all in the head which is ruminated on and gets fantasized about. That person is never necessarily going to actually say "I'm in trouble." '

"The tight ties within the community that may have driven Bird over the edge could also help the community recover from the trauma of multiple deaths, Beresford said. 'I think communities and groups have an amazing ability to regenerate and to be able to survive trauma and loss,' she said.

"However, she said the residents who may need most help are the ones who are struggling to cope with the new reality that the idyllic rural retreat is now the scene of multiple murder...."
Oh, dear. Well, at least the psychiatrist recognizes that community ties have some value. Besides driving a victim of society (that hackneyed phrase does not appear in the article) "over the edge."

Eden? Small Town America isn't Even Close

I think that poetic allusion to small towns in the United Kingdom as an "Eden" is very nice, and may be an accurate description of the sophisticated Londoner's view of such places. Places like the ones I live in do photograph well.

But an earthly paradise? Let's get real.

Never mind the day-in-day-out bickering and discontent that I've observed everywhere, from a tiny town in North Dakota to San Francisco. I love it here in Sauk Centre, but in the twenty-odd years I've lived in this house, there's been a meth lab bust, a drug-related arrest, and shots fired within a few blocks. One of the latter hit one of my windows.

What's different about that sort of thing in small towns, I think, isn't that our perception of ourselves as beings set apart from the world living on cotton-candy clouds is shattered. The folks I know are well-aware that people can do bad things.

What's different about the small towns that I've known - and certainly about the one I live in now - is that drug busts, shootings and other troubles are comparatively rare events. We're upset right after they happen - but life goes on, and around here 'it could be worse.'

Related post:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I've Got to Get Out More: Culligan's Moved, and NASA is In Town (Sort of)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010. I definitely have catching up to do. Take Cullligan, for example. They've moved. To the Industrial Park on the west side.

Culligan, Sauk Centre's, new home: country atmosphere, three times the room. June 1, 2010.

They're under new ownership. And they're not just Culligan. It's Sterling Water - Minnesota and Culligan now. The new place has three times the floor area as their old quarters by Classic Auto, near downtown. Sterling Water? I know about sterling silver - but never mind. Culligan is supplying the water for Energy Connection downtown - but I plan to write about them on Sunday.

Culligan's been in the Industrial Park since last August, 2009, and the local outfit's had new ownership since March, 2009.

Like I said, I've got catching up to do.

Also in the Industrial Park, the Advanced Lighting Systems building is mostly used by Dunham Express, a shipping outfit. They're renting - or maybe it was leasing - the offices in front to NASA.

Scenic, isn't it? This is the Advanced Lighting building, where Dunham Express is now. And NASA. June 1, 2010.

This NASA isn't the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It's NASA, the North American Software Association. The name makes more sense than you might think. The company started out in Belgrade, in 1982. The bank in Belgrade is the North American Bank: and that, sort of, is where the name came from.

North American Software Association has clients in 37 states, so they cover a fair fraction of North America. This NASA moved to Sauk Centre May 7, 2010 - last month.

The offices of NASA - the North American Software Association - here in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. June 1, 2010.

The Sauk Centre NASA provides software for independent insurance agents - bookkeeping, that sort of thing, I understand.

NASA offices - I really like that name. June 1, 2010.

NASA - North American Software Association - (I like that name!) hasn't changed the decor of the office lobby all that much: apart from the fancy lighting displays that went with Advanced Lighting, the room has the same very-contemporary look.

On a personal note, the coaxial cable that gives my house phone, television - and most important for me, Internet connections - got cut this afternoon. Accidentally. It's spliced together again, for which I'm grateful, with a more permanent repair scheduled. That accident gave me a sort of vacation this afternoon, which was nice. But now, I've been getting done what would have been done during the afternoon.